Biliary atresia is a rare, congenital disease that affects newborn babies. With biliary atresia, the tubes (ducts) that carry bile from the liver to the gallbladder fail to develop normally. As a result, bile flow from the liver to the gallbladder is blocked, which can lead to liver damage and cirrhosis.
Symptoms of Biliary Atresia
Babies born with biliary atresia may appear normal at birth but develop symptoms over the next 2 or 3 weeks, including:
- Yellowed skin (jaundice)
- Dark urine
- Enlarged spleen
- Pale or gray-colored stools
- Slow growth
- Slow or no weight gain
Diagnosing Biliary Atresia
The doctor will first perform a physical exam to check for an enlarged spleen, then order blood, urine, and stool tests to check for liver problems.
Other tests may include ultrasound of the abdomen, liver scans (special X-rays that produce an image of the liver and bile ducts), and possibly a liver biopsy.
Treating Biliary Atresia
Treatment for biliary atresia involves a surgery known as the Kasai procedure, in which the liver is connected directly to the small intestine, going around the abnormal ducts. It is most successful if done before the baby is 8 weeks old.
If damage to the liver is severe, a liver transplant may be needed.
To find out more about the Methodist Center for Liver Disease and Transplantation, call us at 866-94-LIVER (866-945-4837) or send us an email.